Better mental health context image – SafetyAtWorkBlog

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[Originally published on December 1, 2020]

Last week, I wrote about the misrepresentation of mental health in a common graphic about the “mental health spectrum”. If only I had had time to read the Productivity Commission’s report into its inquiry on mental health. On page 10 is this image which provides a more accurate context for mental health in Australia.

Rather than discussing the neutral or tipping point as Dr Barton did in the previous article, the Productivity Commission (PC) limits the spectrum line to those citizens with Mild to Severe mental illness, omitting those who are “at risk”. That spectrum line is supplemented by images that illustrate the ratio of Mild to Severe, with additional images to contextualise mental illness with the Australian population.

Does this diminish the importance of strategies to reduce mental illness? No, but it provides a more accurate depiction of how mental illness fits with the other social policies that governments, organisations and businesses need to address.

In future presentations on matters of mental health and wellbeing, it would be good to see this type of graphic being used. And if it is not, the PC has provided a context against which mental health spectrum statistics can be compared.

Do all Australians have a mental illness? No, but everyone faces severe mental stresses at least once in their lives. That is the nature of love, death and, often, work. Everyone will need support at some point for those stressful experiences that cannot be prevented. The level, circumstances and sources of that support is a large part of the PC’s mental health report.

Kevin Jones